Traveling Back in time on the Neuse River

CWEP AmeriCorps member Hannah has been hard at work developing stormwater/ watershed curriculum geared towards high school students for direct education visits in member communities. Based on an Environmental Justice timeline activity she did at the National Environmental Justice Conference in Washington D.C., Hannah developed a “History of the Neuse River” timeline. During this interactive lesson, students work in small groups to match photos with their corresponding event and attempt to put the events in order. This activity is meant to familiarize students with their local watershed and give context for the specific water quality issues in their river basin. The lesson is designed to be general enough that students throughout the Neuse River Basin can use it. Hannah is in the process of creating a similar timeline for the Cape Fear River Basin in addition to creating lesson continuations that teachers can use in the classroom.

Accompanied by members, Hannah will be piloting this lesson at South Granville, East Wake, and Holly Springs High School the first week of December.

To see an interactive electronic version of the timeline, please visit the following link:

History of the Neuse: Full Timeline

Below is the summarized version of the timeline, for quick reference.

neuse river timeline updated 11.26 photo

Waste-Less with Green to Go

Anyone who has visited or lives in Durham knows that it’s a foodie town. From food trucks, to fried chicken, to vegan soul, Durham is the land-of-plenty when it comes to creative food fusions. It’s also an environmentally conscious place to live. Local grassroots community group Don’t Waste Durham is at the forefront of these movements, by keeping waste out of the system and “creating solutions that prevent trash”.

Along with delicious savory bites, the food industry also produces a lot of single-use product waste. According to the U.S. EPA, single-use food packaging makes up nearly 30% of annual solid waste. Straws, plastic utensils, Styrofoam cups/containers, and even “eco-friendly” single-use items like paper to-go boxes are all potential sources of litter that can enter our waterways through stormwater runoff.

single use plastic

What if we could reduce this threat to our watersheds by eliminating single use items in restaurants? Green To Go (an initiative of Don’t Waste Durham) is “taking the trash out of takeout” through their service which provides consumers and local restaurants with reusable to-go containers.  Customers pay an annual subscription fee ($25), download an app, go out to eat/ order take-out from a participating restaurant, and then return their container to a drop-off location. The containers are then washed and returned to restaurants to begin the process again. Using “smart logistics, behavior science, and technology”, Green to Go is attempting to not only eliminate single-use packaging, but build resilient circular economies in the process.

Image result for don't waste durham logoImage result for green to go durham

This past spring, CWEP launched a one-click giveaway campaign sponsored by several community partners, including Green to Go. Green to Go offered an annual subscription for their reusable container service to the giveaway winner. Partnerships like this help CWEP reach a broader audience who might not otherwise know about our work in the  region, while also promoting local businesses who are working towards more resilient communities. We look forward to featuring more local businesses like Green to Go in future CWEP giveaways, and expanding the reach to include local businesses from other member communities as well.

Litter

To Learn more about the Green To Go Initiative, or to sign up, please visit these links:

Don’t Waste Durham Webpage

Green to Go Webpage

Sources:

SOLVE MIT Challenge: Green to Go

Taking the Trash out of Takeout article

Don’t Waste Durham

Green to Go 

Image 1: Green Peace USA

Image 2/3: Green to Go and Don’t Waste Durham webpages

Image 4: CWEP image

Stormwater Management in Extreme Events

Dr. Bill Hunt’s talk at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh on August 9th focused on the historic flooding hurricanes NC has seen in recent years, and what that means for stormwater management. We all remember when 6 feet of water stood on I-40, making Wilmington was an island and closing 3200 roads statewide. Our highways were (in theory) designed for the 1/500 year storm event, but Florence was a 1/2000 year event in Wilmington.

An NCDOT staff member in the audience shared that they worked with NC Division of Emergency Management and the Navy (yes, the Navy) to ensure that Wilmington had adequate supplies. Looking forward, DOT is working with the National Weather Service and others to stress-test our highway system, as well as learning from Louisiana’s experience during Hurricane Katrina to study bridge span vulnerability (many bridges went out during Katrina due to wave action.)

So what does this mean for stormwater management using green infrastructure? Stormwater managers know that green infrastructure has been designed to effectively treat moderate-sized rain events. How can stormwater BMPs / SCMs safely convey or pass larger storms, while still meeting their treatment goals? Dr. Hunt said that we will probably need to design our SCMs to be a bit bigger and made out of more durable materials. Thinking more broadly about green infrastructure, he also emphasized the need for preserving lands that routinely floods as public amenities. Designing parks, ballfields, or urban agriculture areas that can survive being submerged and somewhat battered in storms will allow us to “live with water” better.

Dr. Hunt and others in the audience also emphasized the importance of breaking down our institutional and subject matter silos. Stormwater, transportation, and emergency managers–and developers–can learn from one another about how best to manage risk and maintain the resilience of the systems where we work, play and live.

How are you designing your SCMs and planning land use for extreme events? How are your partnerships with other managers evolving? Leave a comment below about what’s helping you solve these challenges we all face.

And That’s a Wrap! FY 2019 Highlights

Kids cleaning Enviroscape

We finished up our Outreach and Education for the Fiscal Year 2019- and what a year it has been!! We interacted with over 3,000 individuals in CWEP regions over the course of the previous ten months on all things stormwater. A total of 146 hours were spent administering, leading, or aiding in programs across the state! The age range of our audiences ranged from Pre-K-Adult for all events and programs. In addition, we reached our main goal of aiding in or leading a program for all 37 of our member communities throughout the year- meeting both Public Participation & Involvement and Public Outreach & Education NPDES MS4 Minimum Measures. While we reached all 37 communities, a total of 71 programs, events, and meetings took place with about 1-3 visits/member.

Focused educational themes included the water cycle, macroinvertebrates, litter/trash, pet waste, lawn waste, fertilizer/pesticides, household waste, and vehicle pollutants. Check out our program and service menu guide here to learn more about the services we can provide you!

Programs and events ranged from libraries, schools, farmer’s markets, festivals, fairs, workshops, summer camps, Boys and Girls Clubs, scout groups, Parks & Rec programs, YMCA’s, training high schools, and more! CWEP also had several meetings with our member representatives about future events and how CWEP can aid their communities going forward.

We can’t wait to see what 2019-2020 has in store for us! Check out some images from the fun we had this past year here! Also, keep checking back in for our Annual Report FY19 which will be published on our Public SharePoint archive site in the near future. Enjoy the rest of your summer and we will see you soon this fall!

New CWEP Members: Fayetteville and Nashville

Fayetteville and Nashville joined the Clean Water Education Partnership on July 1st, and we are excited to have them! Shauna Haslem is the contact for Fayetteville and Julie Spriggs is the contact for Nashville. Existing members, take a moment to welcome them and swap stormwater ideas!

Shauna Haslem is the Public Information Specialist/Stormwater Educator for the City of Fayetteville, NC. She coordinates media and public outreach for the Public Services department, focusing on the Stormwater program. This includes media inquiries, publication development, website development, and management of social media accounts. In addition, she is passionate about providing top-notch stormwater education to school-aged children in the Fayetteville area, and conducts education programs when the many other hats she wears allow. She looks forward to having the new CWEP AmeriCorps provide a pair of helping hands in stormwater education efforts!

Julie Spriggs is the Planning Director for the Town of Nashville, NC. In her role, she uses skills she has gained as a GIS professional and planner to guide Nashville’s growth and development while taking into account stormwater management impacts. She looks forward to having CWEP’s AmeriCorps come out and do stormwater education in Nashville, as well as being able to take advantage of all the mass media educational materials CWEP has developed.

CWEP looks forward to serving these two -villes’ stormwater education needs!

What Goes Up Must Come Down!

Spring is finally here! And with Spring comes lots of parties, celebrations, graduations, birthdays, weddings, fairs, and more! Balloons are commonly used around the world to celebrate many of the occasions listed, however, when your balloon disappears into the sky, where does it end up going?!

What goes up must come down! Balloons may look nice, but they have a number of environmental concerns associated with them. Balloons are hazards when they enter the environment and our waterways.  All released balloons, whether they are released intentionally or not, return to Earth as litter. And when it rains, all litter and trash end up down the stormdrain- which in turn lead to our waterways.

Balloons kill countless animals, cause dangerous power outages, and affect our water quality. They can even travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places.

Balloons-in-Power-Lines-300x300

Balloons return to the land and water where they can be mistaken for food and eaten by animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and birds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs and ribbons and strings can lead to entanglement, causing death. Beach litter surveys have shown the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years.

hawks

The Problems

Inflated balloons that make their way back to earth or water, pose a risk for wildlife due to the high chance of becoming ingested due to attractive color or their ribbons and tassels forming the perfect trap for animals to become entangled. Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellies, which balloons can easily be mistaken for.

Balloons can travel far and often end up riding the world’s oceans or rivers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identifies balloons as a commonly reported source of marine debris. A report found on the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) titled Ocean Conservancy Beach Debris Data shows 1000’s of balloons pulled from waterways and the coast each year. The Ocean Trash Index presents state-by-state and country-by-country data about ocean trash collected and tallied by volunteers around the world on one day each year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

Cleanups alone can’t solve this pollution problem. Nevertheless, the Ocean Trash Index provides a snapshot of what’s trashing our ocean so we can work to prevent specific items from reaching the water in the first place. It is for that reason that a handful of states including but not limited to California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Texas and Virginia have recently passed legislation restricting the release of balloons.

What Can I Do to Help?

There are many alternatives that will not pollute the Earth or harm animals. We can opt for reusable party & advertising décor – banners, flags, ribbon dancers, pinwheels. For memorials & fundraisers, we can plant trees, gardens or build birdhouses – actions that promote life. Perhaps organize a clean-up in a loved one’s honor or blow bubbles. Sky Lanterns are NOT a good alternative. Sky lanterns are an uncontrollable fire hazard and have sparked massive wildfires and structure fires. Falsely marketed as biodegradable, the chemically treated paper, bamboo ring, metal wires, and fuel cell can last over a year- polluting the planet & risking harm to other lives. Animals have become entangled in them or have ingested the metal parts.

Protesting or stopping a balloon release is another option. Below are some tips on how to go about stopping a balloon release:

  1. Do your homework! Check to see if balloon releases are illegal in the area. Mylar/foil balloons have a “warning” on them saying they should not be released outdoors because of their conductivity.
  2. Contact the organizer. Private message or email may be better. Offer alternatives. Click here for form letters and ideas.
  3. Contact the venue/location. 
  4. Contact city officials. City Manager, Mayor, Parks & Recreation/whoever has jurisdiction of the venue/location. If it’s a sky lantern release, also contact the fire department.
  5. Didn’t work?  You can Email Info@BalloonsBlow.org or Report a Release.

Please choose sustainable products when celebrating and be mindful of the simple choices we can make to protect the planet we all share!

Balloons Blow…Don’t Let Them Go!

Simple-Solutions-to-Less-Plastic-Pollution

 

Calling all Watershed Educators!

It’s that time of year again! We’re starting the search of our new AmeriCorps Service Member for the 2019-2020 term. Gain experience planning and leading stormwater education programs and engaging 37 communities in environmental stewardship! This is also a great opportunity to see the inner workings of local government, meet people, and learn new skills related to all things stormwater! Click on the link below for more information and to apply.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY OR LEARN MORE

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Meet the bug that armors itself with shells, rocks and sticks!

Caddisflies are an ecologically diverse and important group of freshwater insects. Their larvae are sensitive to pollution and for this reason are used  as indicators of water quality. Oxygen concentration and water velocity are important to larvae, as is the chemical content of the water. Caddisflies live most of their lives in the larval state, depending on aquatic habitats to mature to adulthood.

Caddisflies gets creative in the ways they shield themselves from predators. Larvae construct cases, or homes, out of silk woven with sand grains, fragments of wood or twigs, stones, and other materials from their surroundings.

Check out some images below from freshwater insect photographer, Jan Hamrsky:

Caddisfly larvae spend up to two years in their cases before becoming adults. The cases are so pretty that some artists encourage caddisflies to spin their silk around semiprecious stones so their cases can be used as jewelry.

CWEP loves to use activities about macroinvertebrates to teach about clean water! We sometimes find caddisflies in streams, and at tabling events we let participants craft their own caddisflies.

Check out some images from CWEP @ Carrboro Day: “Make your own Caddisfly” craft!

How is CWEP celebrating Earth Day this Year?

With Earth day around this corner, CWEP is ramping up direct education efforts this week and we have a lot in store for our members!

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day now includes events in more than 193 countries, which are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads on this day. Corporations and governments also use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Earth Days theme for 2019 is Protect Our Species.

CWEP is celebrating the week of Earth Day with MANY plans! First we headed to Middlesex Elementary on April 16th for a Water focused Earth Day of fun with the K-5th grades! We saw a total of 313 kids in one day!

We are now heading out to visit our coastal members, Havelock, New Bern, and Kinston, for the week to do programs with their schools, libraries, Parks and Rec, and after schools groups all focused on stormwater education and why we need to keep our waterways clean!

Finally, on Earth Day this coming Monday April 22nd, we will be back in Durham aiding in an EPA Science Day at Bethesda Elementary School! Then later in the week, we will be traveling to Hillsborough to table at a “Last Fridays” Earth Evening themed event on April 26th!

CWEP has a lot in store for our member communities this week and beyond! We are excited to be coming out soon.

Happy Earth Day from CWEP!

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CWEP’s Stormwater Education Campaign Giveaway!

Earlier this month, CWEP kicked off the Spring one click give-away digital campaign. Through partnership with Spectrum, our aired 30 second PSA video will re direct traffic to our website. This is a great incentive for environmentally-minded viewers to learn more about how to keep our waters clean and safe by heading to our website to learn more! The campaign will run until July, which is when winners will be announced. You can view this 30 second video here.

We would like to thank our local and green minded sponsors which include Spiffy, Green To Go, Fillaree and The Produce Box. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible! We are confident we will reach a large number of participants and encourage the public to view and interact with our stormwater education message as well as learn more about our valuable sponsors!

You can read more about the campaign and learn how to get involved here!

Rain Barrel2The Produce Box

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